By Charles Jay
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been desperately trying to hang in there despite the fact that throughout the course of this season they have lost two different quarterbacks. Now they have one of them back in action as they host the Miami Dolphins in the Monday night game that is set to begin at 8:15 PM ET at Heinz Field.
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The bye week was something fortuitous to happen for the Steelers, as they were able to see Mason Rudolph recover from his concussion. They looked to have settled into a formula for how to proceed with Rudolph, and it was based on short passes. And of course the ground game is very important. They don’t need anything too complicated to take advantage of the situation.
This might be an easy path for the Men of Steel, except for the fact that the Dolphins seem to be playing with more enthusiasm of late. You’d have to tie this into the participation of Ryan Fitzpatrick as the quarterback.
Josh Rosen wasn’t moving the team for the first three quarters against Washington, but in came Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins embarked on a comeback that produced two touchdown drives that could have tied the game and sent it to overtime. But a missed two-point conversion left them without a victory.
And last week, as head coach Brian Flores named Fitzpatrick the starter, the Dolphins actually made some headway against the very formidable Buffalo defense, rolling up 381 yards and having the Bills very much on the ropes until the final quarter. For all intents and purposes it was a three-point game; then Miami failed on an inside kick, which Buffalo returned for a TD in the closing moments.
Will this improved play carry over to Monday night’s game? In the NFL betting odds posted on this game, the Steelers are two-touchdown favorites:
Pittsburgh Steelers -14
Miami Dolphins +14
Over 43 points -110
Under 43 points -110
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It is quite possible that by the time Tuesday comes, the Dolphins will have traded running back Kenyan Drake. I guess that’s okay, since they are getting some production at least out of Mark Walton. Of course, it would not surprise me if other names, including possibly Rosen, were sent packing before the trade deadline.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if a number of the Dolphin players, who were threatening mutiny after the season opener, might have done the same after the Washington game, had Brian Flores not changed his mind on the decision to make Rosen the starter the rest of the season. And that might have been what changed things. Fitzpatrick could combust at any time, and he’ll be pressured a lot on Monday night. But Miami has its best chance at scoring TD’s with him behind center. And maybe they’re thinking that they won’t need the #1 overall pick after all to land the oft-injured Tua Tagovailoa, or even someone else, as their “quarterback of the future.” But that’s another discussion for another time.
There is no mutiny with the Steelers. They believe they still have a chance to make the playoffs, even without Ben Roethlisberger, and they are proceeding accordingly. They know that two of the things they will need to do to sustain drives are run the ball with some success and execute a rather simple short passing game. Fortunately for them, those are two areas in which the Dolphins can accommodate them. Miami allows 4.8 yards a carry and has a lower “stuff rate” than any NFL team, meaning that gold the opponent to zero or negative yardage on run plays less often than anyone. So the Steelers will continue to move forward. And the Dolphins are also one of the three worst teams at stopping plays where RB’s catch the ball out of the backfield. Pittsburgh will be able to move the chains with Rudolph at QB. He will have James Washington as another receiver to throw to. And Jaylen Samuels will be present to run some of those wildcat plays for them.
Fitzpatrick may get forced into some mistakes, and this is a formidable Pittsburgh ‘D’. But he is also developing some rapport with the likes of wide receiver Davante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. We think he can get the Dolphins in position to score a couple of touchdowns, and if he does that, and Miami folds in the second half as has been its custom, I think the components are in place for this game to go OVER the total.
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